Cooking with kids: the difference between how that’s going to be in your mind (fun, bonding, delicious, a great way to get kids to try new things) and how it can be in practice (bizarrely stressful, incredibly messy, essentially divisive) can, shall we say, be vast. Those who have tried have probably experienced some degree of both and are, as a result, more comfortable dishing out the food than The Advice. I’ll hold back on the advice today (though I would whisper that a bit of prep really does pay off, so get all your ingredients out and ready), but hope that this food will lure those little hands to get chopping, mixing, tasting and eating. Good luck!
Ham and mozzarella rice cakes (pictured above)
These rice cakes are inspired by yaki onigiri, or Japanese rice balls. I often cook with my kids after we’ve had lunch – they are much more focused when they’re not raging hungry – so these are ideal, because they can be made a day ahead, ready to be fried the next day.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
For the rice cakes
200g sushi rice
Salt and black pepper
60g ham, chopped finely into little squares
100g block low-moisture mozzarella, finely grated
1 egg yolk
½ tsp sesame oil
20g chives, finely chopped
1½ tbsp white sesame seeds
½ tbsp black sesame seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
For the dip
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp lime juice
½ tsp sesame oil
Put the rice in a medium bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Tip the rice into a sieve, run under the cold tap until the water runs clear, then put in a small saucepan with 240ml water and a half-teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan, bring up to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Take off the heat and leave to rest, still covered, for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the ham, mozzarella, egg yolk and a good grind of pepper in a bowl, then split into eight roughly 20g portions, roll into balls and set aside.
Put all the dip ingredients into a small saucepan, whisk to make sure the cornflour gets incorporated with the liquids, then cook on a medium-high heat for three minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly and takes on a glossy sheen. Pour into a small bowl and leave to cool.
Spread the rice evenly over a medium-sized tray, drizzle over the sesame oil, scatter with the chives and mix gently with a fork.
Have ready a bowl of cold water and, using wet hands, weigh out about 55g of the rice mixture and flatten it to the size of the palm of a hand. Put one ball of the mozzarella mixture on the rice and gather up the sides to make a ball, wetting your hands as you go, so the cheese mixture is totally encased by the rice. Roll the ball firmly in your hands, then flatten slightly, set aside and repeat with the remaining rice and mozzarella mixture.
Put all the sesame seeds on a plate, then dip in both flat sides of each rice cake, just to coat. Put the olive olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and, once it’s hot, fry the rice cakes in batches for three minutes on each side, until the sesame seeds are golden. Drain on kitchen towel and serve warm with the dip on the side.
Cheesy curry crepes
The crepe batter can be made the day ahead, as can the crepes themselves: keep them in an airtight container in the fridge. These quantities will make a few extra crepes, but that will allow for any crepe-related catastrophes and/or a few extra to snack on. For a meat-free version, try leftover roast vegetables or chickpeas instead.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
For the crepes
200ml whole milk
75g Greek-style yoghurt
165g plain flour
½ tsp ground turmeric
Salt and pepper
For the bechamel
100g whole milk
50g Greek-style yoghurt
15g plain flour
¾ tsp medium or mild curry powder
¼ tsp ground turmeric
120g grated cheese – cheddar and gruyere work well
Vegetable oil, for frying
250g leftover roast chicken, beef or ham, shredded or chopped into 1cm pieces
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced (optional)
Mango chutney, to serve
Put all the crepes ingredients in a blender, add half a teaspoon of salt and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into a jug and set aside while you make the bechamel.
Put all the ingredients for the bechamel except the cheese in a small saucepan, bring up to a simmer on a medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, for about two or three minutes, until thickened and smooth. Take off the heat, add 50g of the grated cheese, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and whisk until smooth. Cover the surface of the bechamel with a piece of parchment to prevent a skin forming, then set aside while you cook the crepes.
Put a small, 16cm, nonstick frying pan on high heat. Once hot, turn the heat down to medium-high and add a quarter-teaspoon of vegetable oil. Pour about 50ml crepe batter into the pan, swirl it around to spread the batter evenly over the base and cook for 30-40 seconds a side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the rest of the batter – you should end up with 12 or 13 crepes. (If you like, use two pans, to speed things along.)
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9 and line a large, 37cm x 32cm oven tray with baking paper. Take eight of the crepes (save the rest for a snack), lay them on a flat surface and spread each one with a heaped tablespoon of bechamel. Scatter about 30g of the chicken, beef or ham over the bottom quarter of each crepe, and top that with a teaspoon or so of spring onion and half a tablespoon of grated cheese. Fold the top half of each crepe over the bottom half, to cover the filling, then fold over the left side to cover the right, so you end up with little open-ended triangular parcels.
Place the parcels on the lined tray, scatter the remaining cheese over the top and drizzle with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden, then serve hot with the remaining spring onions sprinkled on top and some mango chutney alongside.
Raspberry frisbee cookies
Is it possible to call a cookie a frisbee and then get cross when food flies across the kitchen? Use another berry instead of the raspberries, if you prefer, and make double the amount of jam so you have some left over for breakfast.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
For the cookies
300g plain flour
100g icing sugar
15 cardamom pods (2g), ground, to get ½ tsp (optional; omit if your kids don’t like them)
210g room temperature butter, cut into 2cm cubes
1 tsp vanilla paste
For the jam
225g raspberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted
100g golden caster sugar
½ tbsp lemon juice
For the icing
60g icing sugar
1 tbsp water
15g whole freeze-dried raspberries
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. In a large bowl or food processor, mix the flour with the icing sugar, ground cardamom, if using, and an eighth of a teaspoon of flaked salt. Add the butter and vanilla paste, and mix or pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Pour into a bowl and use your hands to bring it all together into a ball.
Put the dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper and, using a long rolling pin, roll it out to ¾cm thick, pushing together any cracked edges as you roll. Peel off the top sheet of paper and save to bake the cookies on later. Lift up the bottom sheet of paper on either side, with the dough on it, transfer to a large, flat tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the jam filling. Mash the fruit with a fork until smooth (or blitz it in a food processor), then pass the resulting puree through a fine sieve set over a bowl, using a spoon to push it through, until you are left with just the pips in the sieve.
Pour the puree into a large saucepan, add the caster sugar, lemon juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of flaked salt, then cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until bubbling furiously. Pour into a bowl, cover and leave to cool.
Take the cookie dough tray out of the fridge, lift up the sheet of paper with the dough still on it and transfer to a work surface. Using a 5cm round cookie cutter, cut out 18 cookies and place them on a large tray lined with the reserved sheet of paper. (If there are any scraps, put these on a second tray, then bake and save for crumbling over desserts and/or yoghurt another time.) Bake the cookies for 17 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges, then use a spatula to transfer them to a rack and leave to cool.
Mix the icing sugar and water in a small, flat-bottomed bowl, and crush the freeze-dried raspberries in a second small bowl.
Once the cookies are cool, spoon half a tablespoon of the jam on to the centre of nine of the cookies, top with the remaining cookies, and press lightly to sandwich. Roll the edges of each cookie sandwich in the icing, as if you were rolling a wheel, let any excess drip off, then roll the iced edges into the crushed raspberries, so you get a pretty pink line all around each cookie. Set aside until you’re ready to eat them.